29 Jan 2013

Guatemala's former leader to stand trial for genocide

9:38 pm on 29 January 2013

A judge in Guatemala has ruled that former military leader Efrain Rios Montt should be tried for genocide.

General Rios Montt will face charges of crimes against humanity in connection with the killing of

1771 indigenous Mayans during his rule in 1982-83.

The 86-year-old is the first former president to be charged with genocide by a Latin American court, the BBC reports.

Prosecutors said he wanted to wipe out the indigenous group, which he suspected of supporting rebel fighters.

The ruling clears the way for a three-judge to try General Rios Montt and another former military man, Jose Mauricio Rodriguez.

General Rios Montt had enjoyed immunity from prosecution for 12 years while he was serving as a congressman.

The immunity was lifted on 14 January last year when his term ran out. He has been under house arrest since.

Judge Miguel Angel Galvez said there was enough evidence linking the general to the killing of members of the Ixil Maya group to warrant the trial.

The general will also face charges over the forced displacement of 29,000 indigenous Guatemalans as part of what human rights groups have called his "scorched earth" policy.

The BBC reports the ruling is a significant victory for human rights advocates who have been pressing for his trial since the end of the civil conflict in 1996.

An estimated 200,000 people were killed or went missing during the 36-year conflict.

General Rios Montt's 17 months in power are believed to have been one of the most violent periods of the war.